If you or someone you know has trouble sleeping, it’s possible that they have sleep apnea and could benefit from CPAP therapy. Or, perhaps you’ve heard about friends who have a CPAP, and are curious about learning more about these medical devices. One common question we get is whether it’s possible to get a CPAP machine without prescription.
Can You Get a CPAP Machine Without Prescription?
The short answer is no. CPAP machines are medical devices, technically considered “class II” medical devices, which require a prescription.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigns a class rating to every device that has a medical purpose. There are three classes, and CPAPs are class II. All class II devices require a prescription to use.
Why Do I Need a CPAP Prescription, Anyways?
CPAP machines are not particularly dangerous, nor are they that difficult to operate. So, why is CPAP without prescription a possibility? There are several factors, outlined below:
- Insurance – insurance requires you to have a valid prescription before they will pay for any medical devices or equipment. Considering a CPAP will run you $1000+ (see our CPAP cost guide), you’ll definitely want help from insurance.
- Settings – when you get a CPAP prescription, it will come with a recommended pressure setting to run your CPAP on. CPAPs can be set to a huge range of pressure settings, and there’s no way for the average person to be able to tell what the best setting is for their needs. When you get a sleep study, the results will be used to set your pressure preferences, and that will be included in your prescription for CPAP devices.
- Diagnosis – there’s no real way to tell if you have obstructive sleep apnea without getting a sleep study done. And if you don’t have obstructive sleep apnea or a similar disorder, using a CPAP will be of no use to you. Therefore, it’s important to see a doctor before trying CPAP therapy.
How Do I Get a Prescription for a CPAP Device?
You’ll need to complete a sleep study in order to get a prescription. Most of the time you’ll speak to your primary care doctor about your concerns, and he or she will refer you to a sleep specialist. You’ll then have a consultation with the sleep specialist. If they believe sleep apnea is a possibility, they will recommend a home sleep study or an in-lab sleep study.
You will then take the sleep study, and the medical staff will review the results. If the results show that you do indeed have obstructive sleep apnea, then you will be given a CPAP prescription.
Where Can I Buy CPAP Equipment Once I Have a Prescription?
Once you have a valid prescription, you can purchase a CPAP through the sleep doctor (typically), at a local medical device retailer, or online. Online tends to have the lowest prices, but less of the personalized advice that you would find in a brick and mortar store.
Be wary of anyone who promises you a CPAP machine no prescription required. No reputable seller will sell a CPAP device without a valid prescription on file. Even online retailers require you to upload your prescription before purchasing.
With all that said, the rules are less tight for CPAP accessories, such as tubing, mask components, filters, etc. These are easier to find, and don’t typically require a prescription. But a CPAP machine without prescription? Not going to happen!
To find more info about CPAP prescriptions, check out this FAQ section. Or, feel free to ask us in the comments!